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Published:  June 15, 2020

By:  Willie Barney, Co-Publisher Revive Omaha

Beyond the Flames:  Why I Believe 2020 is a Turning Point

Where Do We Go From Here?  Transformation 2025

Part II:  Moving to Solutions

Omaha might not be in flames now, but we have a playbook.  George Fraser has called Omaha the Montgomery of the economic rights movement.  Pastor Freddie Haynes calls it the Selma of the next great movement.  They and others believe there are answers in Omaha.

On a personal level, after years of reading, researching and studying solutions, we embarked nearly fifteen years ago on a journey to move the dial and change the trajectory of our community.  Hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents, both youth and adults, have participated.  Both black and white.  Both civilian and police.   North, South, East and West.

I’m hopeful because through collaboration, we have made measurable progress in 8 of 10 key areas.

Through the collective efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents:

  • Gun violence was decreased by 74%
  • African-American high school graduation rates increased from 64% to 81%.
  • The percentage of African-Americans with a bachelor’s degree increased from 16% to 22%.
  • African-American unemployment was reduced from nearly 21% to 7.5%.
  • Employment for youth increased from 30 summer jobs to over 1,000.
  • The African-American poverty rate was reduced from 33% to 24%.
  • A new grocery store was built, some neighborhood stores were converted and fresh fruit and vegetables were brought to the community.
  • The Affordable HealthCare Act reduced the percentage of uninsured and did not penalize for pre-existing conditions.
  • Major revitalization efforts were launched, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in public/private investments.
  • A new wave of innovative black entrepreneurs is emerging.

One of the most significant areas of progress is the work we’ve done collectively to build stronger partnerships between police and community and begin addressing justice issues.  Body cameras, diversity training, open communication, police diversity and reductions of use of force have resulted from collaboration.  In Omaha, a city of 460,000, there has been one officer involved shooting in the past eighteen months.  Cities across the nation are looking to replicate the Omaha 360, a nationally recognized model.

To be sure, we never thought the work was done.  We know significant gaps still exist. Yet, we also know that it is possible to move the dial.

In 2014, partly fueled by the flames of Ferguson, we made a proposal to accelerate the progress of African-Americans and North Omaha and identified the level of investment it would require. The plan became known as Transformation 2025 Initiative.  It was based on the input of over 8,000 people, implementation of successful projects and aligned with the findings of the Kerner Report and Freedom Agenda.

We secured some initial investments.  We aligned efforts.  We built effective collaborations.  We pushed for large scale investments with specific goals, strategies, initiatives, programs and policies identified.

The areas where we secured funds we have been able to produce tangible, measurable results.  But when it came to the larger proposals, we were told there are no additional funds.

“Where would we ever find that level of funding?”

Omaha can find the funds when it becomes a priority.   Hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown redevelopment.  $140 million for the TD Ameritrade baseball stadium. Hundreds of millions for a new Buffett Cancer Center.  $200 million just approved by citizens to improve streets and the list goes on.  To be clear, these are all great investments for the City of Omaha.  I stand in full support.  They are all needed and benefit the city and region.  However, these investments prove the point: Omaha and other cities can move the dial and we can find the resources to do what we prioritize.

As described by Obama Foundation officials who visited our community, “Omaha is a get it done city.”

We are now faced with the same decision that the nation and city confronted in 1968.

Invest in people or invest in prisons?   Invest in residents or invest in buildings.  Invest in prevention or invest in penalties.  Invest in proactive solutions or civil unrest.

In 2020, what decision will we make?  This is our turning point.

We know how to put out the fire.  I believe that collectively, with the fires raging and in the midst of a pandemic, we will make the right decision.  In the words of Dr. King, “We will finally make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

As African-Americans, we must unite and do our part.  Support black businesses and businesses in North Omaha.  Vote.  Create generational wealth. Continue reinforcing the importance of education.  Take care of our health.  Work together to address justice and reform.  Engage with the community to address race relations and inequities.  Use all of our gifts and assets.  Partner with allies.

Omaha.  America.  You must do your part.  Listen.  Allow African-Americans and residents from neighborhoods most impacted to lead. Partner and support.  Be an ally.  Implement new policies to reform the justice system.  It is time to invest at the scale of the problem.

Invest in entrepreneurship and access to credit and capital.  Invest in employment, diversity and higher wages.  Invest in safe, affordable housing and mixed income neighborhoods.  Invest in education and high performing school models.  Invest in prevention, intervention, community policing and reentry programs.  Invest to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all.

We can all win.  Let’s design a society and democracy that works for all of its citizens.  The rest of the world is watching.  Will this grand experiment finally and fully become what it can be?  A place where all citizens are spiritually, economically and socially thriving, healthy and prosperous.

In Omaha, the early indications from all sectors is that it will be different this time.  We have the will and the appetite to make this the turning point.  We can put the flames out for good this time.

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Two additional thoughts.  There are other plans that have been developed and numerous individuals and groups who are working diligently on their initiatives, projects, programs and policies.  Our goal is to create a combined plan that we can all work on together and do our part in a collaborative way.

In addition, many individuals, organizations, foundations, businesses and ministries have invested tremendous amounts of time, talent and treasure into various initiatives generating measurable outcomes.  We should pause and recognize these committed partners.  Now, together, we will focus more intensely on wealth, health and ownership.

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Black Business Summit highlights keys to raising funds and capital

Published:  Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The June Revive Black Business Summit was very inspiring and informative.

60+ Black business owners, entrepreneurs and support organizations participated in the hybrid – in person and virtual event hosted by Willie and Yolanda Barney of Revive Omaha Magazine, Revive Black Business Network, Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center.

The monthly summits provide an opportunity to gain knowledge on important topics, meet specialists in each area, hear from business owners who excel in implementation, network with other entrepreneurs and get connected with resources and opportunities through the business exchange.

Building Multiple Businesses

Luper Akough, CEO of Clout Enterprises, provided insights on launching and scaling multiple businesses.  His key points including building effective systems, understanding timing, investing in yourself, finding partners and hiring the right people were incredibly helpful.

Akough and his wife, Brittanie, are known as innovators and serial entrepreneurs with over 100 employees.  Luper shared their goal of creating 450 new employees over the next five years.

Keys to Raising Capital

Timothy Christian, CEO of Night Fox Entertainment, shared his valuable experiences with raising capital for films and entertainment projects.  Those in attendance appreciated the core elements that he outlined:  Integrity, Intelligence, Passion, Partnerships, Idealism and Pragmatism, and Surrounding Yourself with the Right People including an Attorney and Accountant.

Christian has his corporate headquarters in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and maintains an office in Los Angeles, California.  His company’s sweet spot is raising capital for $10 million films.

Opportunities Created by the North Omaha Recovery Plan

State Senators Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney provided an update on their work to gain approval of $330 million in state funds for North and South Omaha, Lincoln and other qualified census tracts in Nebraska to support entrepreneurship, business development and job creation.

They informed the group that most of the work for implementation will be conducted through the Department of Economic Development.  They emphasized the need for businesses to be prepared for the opportunities and community engagement meetings are coming soon.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development has created a page to stay updated on the opportunities with the North Omaha Recovery Plan. https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/

Tax Increment Financing

Bridget Hadley, Economic Development Manager for City of Omaha, provided an overview of TIF and the process used to determine what projects might qualify.  Participants have a greater understanding of how it works and ways that our businesses and real estate owners can get engaged and maximize this financial tool.

TIF can be used as leverage by developers to attracting additional funds and financing.   Smaller and large development projects are eligible.  Hadley is available to support large and small projects and encouraged the attendees to reach out to her.

Equity Investments

Dr. Martin Williams, CEO of Martin Williams International and DreamBusiness, walked the group through the opportunities created by being open to equity investments.   Entrepreneurs should consider what’s possible when teaming with others and allow investors to have a stake in our businesses.  Williams also shared insights on having a buyout plan and selecting the right partners.

Williams and his wife, Lynnell, have helped dozens of businesses with scaling from self-employment to multi-million dollar enterprises.  They hold real estate investments locally and internationally and partner with the Barney’s with the Carver Legacy Center.

Business Loans

Ernest White, 1st Vice President of American National Bank and Ambassador for Carver Legacy Center and Jim Reiff, Executive Director of Nebraska Enterprise Fund, shared practical and real examples of loans and resources available through the Carver Legacy Center and Nebraska Enterprise Fund.

The Carver in partnership with American National Bank has assisted 30+ businesses and another 25 are in the pipeline.  Nebraska Enterprise Fund has made loans to hundreds of businesses in Omaha.

The most recent approval includes Roll-N-Sweetz, the new rolled ice cream shop which was opened by a 17 year old entrepreneur at 60th and Ames. Carver and Nebraska Enterprise Fund both supported the business financially.

Stay connected.  

The next Revive Black Business Summit will be held on Saturday, July 23rd and the topic will be Maximizing Technology to Grow Your Customer Base and Increase Profits.  More information coming soon.

Black business owners and entrepreneurs are invited to become formal members of the Revive Black Business Network and experience the outstanding benefits associated with this group.  Build your social, cultural and intellectual capital.

Willie and Yolanda encourage attendees to continue doing business with each other and supporting Black entrepreneurs.  The Revive Black Business Guide features hundreds of Black-owned businesses in Omaha.  Revive Black Business Guide

And, join the Carver Legacy Center movement.  Go to Carver Legacy Center to open your account, apply for a loan, sign up to receive training or develop your plan for building wealth.

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June 25th…Revive Black Business Summit…Raising Funds and Capital

We’re building capacity and momentum.  Where can you find funds and capital to launch or scale your business?

Please use these links to learn more and register.

Revive Black Business Summit – June

 

Register Here

The next Revive Black Business Summit will be held Saturday, June 25th from 8:00 am to 10:30 am. It will be in-person and virtual.

We’ve had a great response with the first three summits with over 100 Black businesses, entrepreneurs and support organizations participating.  Let’s keep building together!

The location for the in-person event will be the Revive Center.  Breakfast and Networking will start at 8:00 am.

Please use these links to learn more and register.

Revive Black Business Summit – June

Register Here

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Carver Legacy Center, a Black-owned financial and wealth building system, opens in North Omaha

Published:  Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Carver Legacy Center, an innovative collaborative approach to building black businesses and thriving communities was publicly announced on August 30, 2020 and formally opened on April 4, 2022.

Carver Legacy Center Owners and Partners with Elected Officials and Strategic Collaborators (April 4, 2022 Soft Opening)

After nearly five years of behind the scenes work to develop formal partnerships, the collaboration is bringing new life to the historic Carver building located in the village at 24th and Lake.

Co-founders and co-owners Willie and Yolanda Barney and Martin, and Lynnell Williams have created a joint venture with American National Bank to make it happen.

The focus of the Center is creating wealth for African-Americans and North Omaha residents through business ownership, home ownership and community ownership.

“18 months ago we stood before the community and promised to renovate the historic Carver building and launch a new financial center, develop a Hub and Accelerator for small businesses where they can launch, scale and grow, and create a store and pop-up incubator where Black businesses and North Omaha entrepreneurs can feature their products and services.  Today, we are back to have you experience it for yourself.  Welcome to the Carver Legacy Center,” said Willie Barney, co-owner and co-founder.

“For over 22 years, Yolanda and I have worked to launch, support, promote and expand black businesses.”

“We are excited to partner with Martin and Lynnell Williams and American National Bank.  To be able to do this in the historic building where the first Black-owned financial institution in Nebraska was opened 78 years ago, the place where Whitney Young launched a program to increase Black homeownership and the building that housed the offices of some of Omaha’s history-making black leaders is especially meaningful to all of us.”

The Carver Legacy Center will have several components.

Carver Legacy Center Co-owners and Co-Founders:  Willie and Yolanda Barney and Lynnell and Martin Williams.  Carver Savings and Loan, the first Black-owned financial institution in the state of Nebraska opened in 1944 and closed in the mid 1960’s.  The Carver Legacy Center owners purchased the building and partnered with American National Bank to bring financial services, hubs and accelerators and wealth building systems back to 24th and Lake.

 

CARVER LEGACY FINANCIAL SERVICES

The Carver Legacy Financial Services Center, a joint venture with American National Bank, will bring banking services to 24th and Lake, and provide increased access to credit and capital for Black businesses and North Omaha residents.

With the joint venture with American National Bank, individuals, families, organizations, churches and businesses can open accounts and make deposits at any American National Bank location by designating a Carver Legacy Account.  American National Bank is a member of the FDIC which means deposits are insured.

Loans leveraged by these deposits will benefit Black businesses and individuals, and North Omaha residents and businesses.

In Phase III to come later, the Carver at 24th and Lake is working to become a full service branch which will allow all banking services to be provided at that location.

“We are excited about partnering with the Barney and Williams families to make this happen at this historic location,” said John Kotouc, Co-chairman of American National Bank. “We are bringing our banking experience, expertise and considerable investments to this collaborative approach.”

“American National Bank is committed to supporting this Black-owned business and initiative and we want this to serve as another catalyst for further community-based development in North Omaha.”

Kotouc also emphasizes that this is not an exclusive situation.  “We will play a role, but we challenge and encourage other financial institutions to also get involved with this project.  It will benefit the entire community.”

In addition to the financial center, the Carver Legacy Center will house three other important components:  Hub & Accelerators; Revive Omaha Store and Pop-Up Incubator; and Legacy Wealth Center.

HUB AND ACCELERATORS

The Hub will be the new home for Revive Omaha and the Revive Black Business Network.  It will also feature shared office and meeting space for the DreamBusiness Accelerator and other business collaborators.

“Nine years ago, we created the Revive Black Business Network which has connected with over 300 black owned businesses,” said Yolanda Barney, co founder and Vice President of SMB Enterprises.

“One of the things we have heard most consistently is we need more funds to launch and expand our business.  We can’t get loans.  Entrepreneurs have also told us they would like support with finance, sales, technology, admin, marketing and branding.”

While the Financial Center will help bring funding together, the Hub will be a place to help entrepreneurs with connecting with other business owners and resources, launching their vision and provide technical assistance to help take their businesses to scale.

The Accelerators run by the Barneys and Williams will also connect black businesses to supplier diversity and procurement opportunities with major companies.

“We are excited to be open for business at the Carver Legacy Center. The process of building and introducing this financial services center was a work of passion and commitment to our community,” said Martin Williams, co-owner and co-founder.

“We have worked for the past 30 years on cultural approaches to launch and grow successful businesses.”

He and his wife Lynnell are founders and strategic leaders of Ambassador Worship Center and have established several businesses nationally and internationally, including Barak II which is the partner with the Carver.

“Using what we have learned by helping others to launch million dollar businesses, we are blessed to be a part of bringing the Carver back to life and helping families to build generational wealth.”

The Hub will utilize a collaborative approach that all three families have dedicated themselves to over many years.  The Revive Black Business Network will operate a start-up accelerator and the Williams will facilitate a scale-up accelerator through their DreamBusiness program.

Other businesses will bring their specific expertise to the table.  Hayes and Associates and Advance Tax Solutions will support businesses with finance, accounting and tax services.  Technology Consulting Solutions and others will assist with technology.

Business Seals and others will assist with business plans and financial forecasts.  PPRP Innovations will support market research, pricing and market growth strategies.  Other black owned businesses will assist with social media, branding, marketing, HR and operations.

“We wanted to create one place where an entrepreneur can go from idea to launch and then to scale and expansion,” said Willie Barney.

“We are also finalizing partnerships with other specialists and organizations who will offer services at the Center.”

REVIVE OMAHA STORE AND POP-UP INCUBATOR

Another key component to the Center will be the Revive Store and Pop Up Incubator.  The space where Big Mama’s sandwich shop operated will be multi-use.

It will feature products created by African-Americans and North Omaha residents.  The space will also serve as a pop-up incubator for businesses that would like to introduce their products to the community.

“It’s a perfect space for a small business to host an event to showcase their products while also giving them a chance to test market and gather valuable experience” said Yolanda Barney.

“Our goal is to help them step out into their entrepreneurship journey and then hopefully locate a business in the 24th and Lake District or another key corridor in North Omaha.”

 

LEGACY WEALTH CENTER

The final piece of the four part strategy is the Legacy Wealth Center.  A core element in the vision is financial empowerment and community ownership.  The team wants to see residents save, improve credit scores, purchase insurance, invest in stocks, purchase land and homes, become business owners and pass wealth to future generations.

The Legacy Wealth Center will feature workshops, special events and classes to help residents with accomplishing their financial goals.  We will have guest speakers and experts in their fields share their time and talent with members.  Participants will learn more about turning their gifts and talents into revenue producing businesses and multiple streams of income.

“This is the part that gets me most excited,” said Lynnell Williams.  “We want to teach families everything we have learned about building wealth.  That starts with breaking cycles and implementing discipline in the areas of finance.”

“Carver Legacy Center is committed to bridging the gap for all ages and ensuring that our young ones get a head start on understanding money matters!  Our future depends on how well we financially prepare our youth.”

The Carver Legacy Center will also house the Revive Black Business Network which has national strategic advisors, including Dr. Pamela Jolly, Dr. Randal Pinkett and Tawanna Black.  They will also support and offer wealth building classes and sessions.

As the Carver Legacy Center moves through the phases, the team will also work with local and national partners to create collective investment opportunities.  This will be a platform to pool and leverage resources.

“We believe the reopening of the Carver is like digging up the wells that made North Omaha a great place to live, worship, work and own homes and businesses,” said Martin Williams.  “As we move forward, we will work with others to help residents to create wealth and ownership.”

 

COLLABORATION

Other local collaborators include:  Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Family Housing Advisory Services, Omaha 100, Shift Omaha, Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska – UNO.

“American National Bank is committed to helping to develop strong communities and we are very supportive of many organizations in North Omaha,” said Wende Kotouc.

“We have worked with Willie and Yolanda and Martin and Lynnell for many years and they have consistently worked with others to produce measurable results. They have shown again and again they know how to make things happen.  We are excited to be involved in this effort.   Earnest White who has a long history of community involvement will be our ambassador to Carver.”

Willie Barney added, “We want to specifically thank Michael Maroney, Ben Gray, the City of Omaha Mayors Office and Planning Department, Lorie Lewis, Ernest White, Ryan Meyer, Steph Gould, Jackie Vinci, Patti Kuhre, Pamela Jolly and Katie Weitz for their support as we have worked to develop this Center.”

“We believe the Carver will be an important piece of accelerating progress at 24th and Lake, in North Omaha and for African-American communities.”

“Omaha is known for wealth, we want it to be known for creating Black wealth as well and rebuilding a thriving North Omaha.”

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